Christmas is a magical time for children and for two-year-old Elijah Puckrin it is no different.
He loves helping his mummy wrap presents - and he enjoys unwrapping them even more.
“I was wrapping presents yesterday and he was throwing everything around and causing mayhem,” laughed his mum Wendy, from Valley Mount, in Harrogate.
Elijah has Down’s Syndrome and Wendy is on a mission to prove that special moments and memories, like those created at Christmas, can only exist if the right information is out there.
In the two years since Elijah was born, the doting mum has devoted her time to campaigning for an end to the negative connotations surrounding the condition and for parents facing the possibility of having a child with Down’s to be given more guidance.
She is more determined than ever to ensure people are presented with the correct facts following the commission of a new non-invasive prenatal test for the condition.
She said: “On the day my little man was born I was informed he had Down’s syndrome, I was not only surprised, I was shocked, scared, in fact basically terrified.
“Had I found out while I was pregnant, there is a very good chance he would not be here today.
“It pains me to say that, but the negativity in the media, my own preconceptions and the way that a diagnosis can be handled by medical professionals would have left me feeling like I had little choice.
“It’s no wonder that 92 per cent of prenatal diagnosis of the condition ends in termination. With the new non-invasive tests that figure is set to rise. In countries such as Denmark this figure is already at 98 per cent.”
Wendy is not against abortion - she is pro-choice - but is keen to ensure parents are given enough information to make an informed decision.
Last year she taught student midwives at Leeds University about Down’s Syndrome and how to engage with parents and she has been invited back in the New Year.
“It’s so fantastic to be invited back. It actually feels like you are making a difference. That’s all I can ask for really,” she said.
Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21 in the body’s cells. Down’s syndrome is not a disease, and it is not a hereditary condition. It occurs by chance at conception. Around one in every 1,000 babies born in the UK will have the condition.
“My son is determined, intelligent, curious and downright beautiful. He is my teacher, my inspiration and my guiding star,” said Wendy.
“He is like any other toddler. If he wants something he will get it. He has me wrapped around his tiny little finger.
“I’m on a mission to prove there is nothing wrong with my child. He is as perfect as I could have hoped for.”
Wendy is particularly keen to dispel the myth that people with Down’s Syndrome won’t amount to anything.
She said: “That is simply not true. There are many who have gone on to become councillors, models, actors, business owners etc.
“With the right environment and the right encouragement, any child can accomplish their dreams.”
Next month Elijah will start nursery at Coppice Valley, where Wendy says he will be treated like any other child.
With support from staff, including his special educational needs co-ordinator, he will be encouraged to use sign language designed for young children to help them communicate.
“Elijah already knows some signs, including cat, dog, milk, biscuit, food and bottle,” said Wendy.
“He’s doing really well developmentally and his childminder has scrapped the developmental chart for children with Down’s.
“The only thing he is behind with is walking, but he’s getting there, and his speech, although he can say the odd word like mummy and I’m not terribly concerned.”
Elijah also has a hectic social life and enjoys riding at Follifoot Park Disabled Riders Group and swimming.
“He’s a typical two-year old. He has no fear. He will do whatever he wants and he’s a lot braver than me,” laughed Wendy.
Elijah’s exploits have earned him more than 2,000 followers on his dedicated Facebook page, This is Elijah.
“I set the page up 18 months ago to try and encourage people not to be scared,” said Wendy.
“When he goes out he gets recognised. People adore him. The messages and comments he gets show just how much he is loved.”
Earlier this year Wendy raised £2,500 for Down’s Syndrome International and the Down’s Syndrome Association to mark the 10th anniversary of World Down’s Syndrome Day, which takes place on March 21.
And the indomitable mum is hoping to smash the target in 2016.
She said: “I will be holding a gala evening on Friday, March 18 2016 at The Crown Hotel, Harrogate, to raise awareness, educate and of course raise money. I am requesting items that can be raffled, auctioned or used as prizes, or for sponsorship for the event – which would involve purchasing a table for the evening or perhaps donating wine for the tables.”
Prizes have already been flooding in and she has received signed football shirts from teams including Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday.
Local businesses, including H2K skincare, Milk and Honey, Jake’s and Rhythm Time, have also lent their support.
All the money raised will go to Leeds based charity Sunshine and Smiles which was set up by a group of parents who felt there was very little for children and their parents with Down’s.
They organise groups and events to improve the lives and opportunities of children and families living with Down’s in the area.
Wendy said: “Some of the ladies have been going since pregnancy. I’m really for that because I think it’s so important to be in touch with people who are in the know when you get the diagnosis because there is so much negativity in the medical world, in the media, everywhere, that when you get that prenatal diagnosis it’s almost assumed you will terminate.”
Wendy was 38 when she became pregnant with Elijah and knew that she was at a higher risk of having a child with Down’s Syndrome than someone younger.
She said: “I think my own preconception of people with Down’s Syndrome had made me scared and unsure about the future and even though I adored him, there’s still that feeling of uncertainty.
“But now there’s no uncertainty. He’s going to do whatever he wants to do and he will be loved and happy and I don’t think you can really ask for much more.”
Wendy, who split from Elijah’s father when she was pregnant, says she will continue to campaign to change people’s perception of Down’s Syndrome.
She said: “The phrase I hear most of all from parents with Down’s Syndrome is ‘if I knew then what I know now there would be no tears, no worries and no fears’.
“It’s hard but It’s totally worth it. I’m a single mum, I’m no superwoman. If you had told me three years ago I would single-handedly be raising a child with special needs I would have probably laughed. He’s not what I expected but he’s more than I deserve.”
To buy tickets for the gala, which cost £40, or any companies who are able to donate or sponsor the event, should contact Wendy via the This is Elijah Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org